Rotator cuff injuries happen due to repetitive movements of the hands and shoulders over the head; mostly while working or performing some type of sports training. The circular band of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder form the rotator cuff. Its role is to firmly keep the top of the arm in the shoulder socket. 

A rotator cuff injury is usually a tear or strain in the muscles, tendons and joint capsule that stabilize the shoulder. The most common site of a tear is the supraspinatus tendon, but severe injuries can cause tears to several surrounding muscles and tendons. 

Some people are at a greater risk of suffering from a rotator cuff injury than others. Rotator cuff injuries tend to run in families, but the risk of injury increases as we get older. The most common rotator cuff injuries happen among tennis players, painters, carpenters, baseball players etc.

A rotator cuff injury is diagnosed with a physical exam where the doctor presses different parts of the patient’s arm and shoulder; performing strength tests of the muscles. In some cases, X-Ray, Ultrasound and Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be required. 


Repetitive movements of the arm and shoulder over the head, lifting heavy things for a prolonged period of time, or degeneration of the tendons. A single injury of the rotator cuff may require surgical treatment for reparation of the tendons or even joint replacement. 


All rotator cuff injuries are painful, reducing the range of motion in the affected arm and shoulder. The most common symptoms are:

  • Arm weakness 
  • Dull pain in the shoulder (tends to get worse with movement)
  • Sleeping problems
  • Difficulties in the regular daily activities, such as dressing or combing the hair


  • Rest
  • Cooling the area with ice 
  • Physical therapy
  • Joint Injections (Corticosteroid) 
  • Surgery may be needed for patients with large or full thickness tears. This option is usually recommended if the patients are young or they have long term symptoms of weakness and poor function of their arm and shoulder.